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Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. York (UK): Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK); 1995-.

Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet].

A systematic review of the effectiveness of brief interventions with substance using adolescents by type of drug

Review published: 2003.

Bibliographic details: Tait R J, Hulse G K.  A systematic review of the effectiveness of brief interventions with substance using adolescents by type of drug. Drug and Alcohol Review 2003; 22(3): 337-346. [PubMed: 15385228]

Quality assessment

This review assessed brief interventions for alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use in adolescents. The authors concluded that brief interventions may slightly reduce alcohol and tobacco consumption, but there is insufficient evidence about multiple substance use. Combining studies with different populations, interventions, outcomes and follow-up may not be appropriate. The findings of the review may not be reliable. Full critical summary


The aim of this paper is to evaluate the effectiveness of brief interventions (BI) with adolescents (mean age <20) in reducing alcohol, tobacco or other drug (ATOD) use by means of a systematic review of BI for adolescent substance use in the English language literature up to 2002. We identified 11 studies involving 3734 adolescents. Follow-up ranged from 6 weeks to 24 months. Motivational interviewing was the predominant approach, underpinning eight studies: the remaining three provided personalized health information. Seven papers reported outcomes for alcohol interventions and four involved other substances (including one with separate alcohol outcomes). The overall effect size was d=0.126 with borderline homogeneity (Q=14.9, df=9, p=0.09). The effect size from the eight alcohol interventions (n=1,075) was classified as significant but "small" (d=0.275). The remaining non-alcohol studies were considered separately as interventions involving tobacco or multiple substance use. The two interventions with tobacco involved a substantial sample (n=2,626) but had a very small effect (d=0.037), while the two interventions addressing multiple substances involved few participants (n=110) but had a medium-large effect (d=0.78). Across a diverse range of settings (dental clinic, schools, universities, substance treatment centres) and, therefore, probably diverse clients, BI conferred benefits to adolescent substance users. BI had a small effect on alcohol consumption and related measures. The data for tobacco interventions suggested a very small reduction, particularly with general community interventions. The effect of BI with multiple substances appears substantial but the small sample cautions against expansive generalization.

CRD has determined that this article meets the DARE scientific quality criteria for a systematic review.

Copyright © 2013 University of York.

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